Antievangelism law fails in case against advocate of Yoga


In St. Petersburg the "case of the Yogi" concludes: the court ruled that the "Yogi" is not a missionary

by Sergei Satanovsky

Novaya Gazeta in St. Petersburg, 19 January 2017


Dmitry Ugai was arrested on 22 October at his lecture about Yoga at a Vedalife festival. Police arrived there on the basis of a report by Peterburgian Nail Nasibulin, who notified law enforcers about a violation of the "Yarovaa Law" at the festival of Indian culture. Ugai was accused of conducting missionary activity without the permission of a religious organization. He himself denies that he is a member of any organization.


"Did you take religious studies in the university?" Ugai's defense attorney Anatoly Pchelintsev addressed police officer Arsen Magomedov, who drew up the report.




"And the professor also halted during the lectures?" Pchelintsev clarified, to laughter in the court room, alluding to the fact that the officer interrupted the lecture at the festival.


Dmitry Ugai arrived for the new session of the "case of the Yogi" (the first was conducted on 9 January) with three lawyers. Sergei Latyshevsky (he defended the Yogi from the day of his arrest) was joined by Muscovites Mikhail Frolov (for whom this was now the ninth case connected with the "Yarovaya Package") and Anatoly Pchelintsev, the author of the guide "Missionary Activity: How to avoid becoming a victim of the 'Yarovaya Law.'"


The judged had postponed the previous session because she wanted to talk with the witnesses: Officer Arseny Magomedov, the informant Nail Nasibulin, and Maria Tresnikova, who attended the lecture.


Arseny Magomedov confirmed that the words "Vaishnavism" (a religious tradition within Hinduism) and Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math (the organization for whom Ugai allegedly was preaching) appeared in the police report at the instigation of witnesses whose names he was not able to recall.


Against Ugai it could be charged that Nail Nasibulin said that the lecturer invited his audience to continue studies in the temple in Lakhta, where lectures, festivals, and sermons associated with Vaishnavism were conducted. But these words were not corroborated by a video tape.


In the opinion of Mikhail Frolov, Ugai himself is not a religious association, he did not disseminate information about religious belief, and he did not urge joining a religious association. Only with the convergence of all three points could Ugai be called a missionary.


Attorney Anatoly Pchelintsev appealed to the emotions and inner feeling of freedom of the judge and the public. He recalled a case in 1977 when a soviet court sentenced to prison a Yoga teacher, Anatoly Ivanov. Even the judge could not hide a smile when Pchelintsev began to read the ridiculous forty-year-old charges. "What do we want—to return to that?" the lawyer asked. Nobody in the courtroom wanted to return to soviet judicial practice; Pchelintsev even was awarded applause.


Judge Zhanna Kustanovich closed the case without finding Ugai to be a missionary. The Yogi who barely avoided prison thanked the "young, smart, and competent people" who came to the defense of the law.


Whether to file a lawsuit against Nasibulin for slander, Ugai still has not decided. "But the victory of the forces of light has already taken place," the Yogi is certain. (tr. by PDS, posted 24 January 2017)

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